ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligences (AI) will add as much as $4.4 trillion a year to the global economy, according to a new study from the McKinsey Global Institute.

The study analyzed 63 likely uses for AI and pegged its annual value at from $2.6 trillion to as much as $4.4 trillion.

AI’s major boost to productivity will come in the areas of customer service, research and development, marketing and sales, and software engineering, McKinsey predicted.

In customer service, AI can instantly pull up a customer’s records and quickly answer complex questions in a consistent “brand voice.” 

That saves workers’ time for handling unique situations and spares callers of having to hang on the line listening to elevator music or take a chance on a human operator’s competence.

In information-intensive jobs, the technology’s ability to edit and summarize content will give highly skilled workers “superpowers,” Lareina Yee, a co-author of the McKinsey report, told The New York Times.

Generative AI can take over routine tasks that soak up 60 to 70 percent of a typical workers’ day, the report estimated. By 2060, Al will be doing half of all work done today, McKinsey concluded.

“Generative AI has the potential to change the anatomy of work, augmenting the capabilities of individual workers by automating some of their individual activities,” the report stated.

The study is among the first to attempt to quantify in detail AI’s potential effect on the global economy and workforce as the tech sector and its financial backers are plowing billions into applications that train AI to do more and do it better. 

Accenture, the global tech services and consulting firm, has announced it will invest $3 billion in AI through 2026 and have 80,000 workers trained and working on AI-related issues by then.

McKinsey’s report will fuel the debate over the degree to which AI will free workers for more complex tasks or replace them entirely. 

A Goldman Sachs analysis concluded that some companies and workers will benefit more than others. A study from Stanford University found that AI improved call center operators’ productivity by 35 percent. (See “AI Benefits Newer Workers More, Study Finds” 13 Jun 2020.)

“The most profound change we’re going to see is the change to people, and that’s going to require far more innovation and leadership than the technology,” Yee added.

TRENDPOST: There are two competing schools of thought among AI visionaries about how this will play out.

In one, AI taking over 60 or 70 percent of workers’ routine tasks implies that companies will need 60 to 70 percent fewer workers, who then become Uber drivers or grocery baggers or become permanently unemployed.

In the other, AI creates so many new jobs that the 60 to 70 percent of workers displaced will land jobs newly created in an AI economy.

The future will show both as partly correct—jobs will be lost and workers unable to retrain will be left behind. New jobs will be created and wise companies such as Accenture will not only hire new help but also will train existing employees to a higher level of skill.

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